Parasitic flatworms help mark 30 years of Holsworth Endowment

30 years ago, eminent biologist Bill Holsworth went into his bank and told them he’d like to give his money away.

During a career spanning decades and continents, Bill was never sure of his own financial security as a biologist, so he and his wife spent carefully and saved what money they could. After putting their own children through university, there was still money left over and Bill decided to use his savings to help early-career ecologists.

“I know it can be hard to get funding for mouse trapping,” he joked at the recent celebration of 30 years of the Holsworth Endowment. 

In 1990, the first year the grants were awarded, three students received $3,000 each as a result of Bill’s investment, and it went from there. His support has now helped hundreds of early-career ecologists to get established. 

Last summer, two early-career researchers Bill was supporting were out in the waters off Perth collecting parasitic flatworms, when they discovered two new species of worm in silver drummer fish and western buffalo bream.

Storm Martin and Daniel Huston, from the Marine Parasitology Research Laboratory at the University of Queensland believe that these species in fact are a new genus, likely to be endemic to south-west Australia.

So, they did what any grateful grant recipient would, and named the genus after their funder…. Holsworthotrema (the Holsworth trematode).

At the recent ESA conference, close to 50 people, including many past recipients joined Bill to celebrate his contribution. and both Storm and Daniel presented Bill with with a poster detailing their discovery.

At 83, Bill has turned the day-to-day management of the grants over to the ESA but said he was very pleased that so many people benefiting from his foresight and investment.

Meet more past recipients.